Keeping NHL Draft in June raises lots of questions

NHL teams are gathered on the floor of the Bell Centre for day two of the 2009 NHL entry draft. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Just a couple of notes about some goings-on in the NHL:

The league proposed to teams the idea of going forward with the draft in June. On the surface I get it — the NFL Draft is an even bigger animal than normal because of the sports vacuum created by COVID-19. It would keep the NHL relevant, give everyone something to talk about and mean not squeezing it through a short off-season.

Another reason for doing it is contracts end on June 30, and there are many scouts/executives working the draft who currently would not be on-contract for a later-summer event. One team apparently has 18 expiring deals.

However, there are some questions that would need to be answered:

• What do you do with conditional picks based on where teams finish in the playoffs — or if they make the playoffs at all?

• How do you deal with players who would be able to start next season elsewhere if the 2020-21 NHL start is delayed until later in the year? That could include CHL/NCAA/European players — although their situations are unclear as of now. Would those players be removed from their teams and be given the opportunity to join NHL camps?

• Teams who know they are going to the playoffs will be unable to trade players they want to use for draft picks.

• Because of the possibility of expanded playoffs, someone asked if one team actually could win the lottery and then the Stanley Cup.

Obviously, all of these things would have to be fleshed out if a June draft was to happen.

The neutral-sites idea looks like a no-go.

Instead, we’re looking at one NHL city per division to resume the season. Teams from that division would be brought to this location. And, it sounds like the plan is to complete the regular season — if possible. One idea, a triple-header per day at each location to get it done in three weeks. The players have to agree.

Looking at the CDC and Canadian information, I could see places like Edmonton, Minnesota and Raleigh being options if the league and the respective governments were willing.

There is real concern about the 2020-21 American Hockey League season if fans are not permitted to attend games. I’d guess several leagues in many different sports would face a similarly painful decision.

Leagues with bigger television revenues are in a better position to face that problem, but the AHL does not have that benefit.

Slightly more than half of the 31 AHL teams are owned by their NHL parent. Will NHL teams who have affiliate agreements with their AHL partner be willing to re-work them to the minor-league club’s benefit? I can’t imagine too many big-league teams want their prospects going without playing next season.

And finally, Dustin Byfuglien is not officially retiring yet. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said it best on his conference call last week, that Byfuglien is the only one who knows if he’s going to play again. On an Instagram Live, former teammates Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg said they didn’t think he’d come back.

But, at this point, Byfuglien is not making it official. When Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1999, he refused to say it was 100 per cent. “It’s close,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to say never. But I will say 99.9.”

Jordan came back with the Wizards in October of 2001. The odds are against Byfuglien doing it, but as The Last Dance captivates everybody — why not use the tie-in?

Part II of our 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks’ oral history comes out Wednesday. 31 Thoughts returns next week.

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